Hong Kong localist activist Edward Leung has lost an appeal against his jail term in connection with rioting during the 2016 Mong Kok unrest.

In June 2018, the 28-year-old was sentenced to six years in jail after pleading guilty to assaulting a police officer and being convicted of one charge of rioting. The Mong Kok unrest was triggered by the authorities’ attempts to clear street hawkers, which escalated into violent clashes between police and protesters.

Edward Leung. File photo: Edward Leung, via Facebook.

In the judgement delivered by the Chief Judge of the High Court of Hong Kong Jeremy Poon and Justices of Appeal Carlye Chu and Derek Pang, the court said Leung’s situation was “a very serious case of riot.”

They also wrote that the trial judge’s finding that the Argyle Street riot was premeditated was “supported by evidence” and “within reason.”

According to a press summary of the judgement, the Court of Appeal said that Leung was present since the riot began in Portland Street and witnessed how the events unfolded. Leung could not claim that the presence of police officers and the following clashes as out of its expectation, the court ruled, after he had taken part in the riot on Argyle Street and assaulted an officer there.

The court said the trial judge was entitled to take into account Leung’s presence on Portland Street as “factual context,” and it could not be argued that it led to an increased jail term.

File photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

“Even if [Leung’s] motive was to protect local traditions and culture, this could not lessen his culpability for rioting and unjustified use of serious violence on a police officer,” the judgement read.

The appeal court said the trial judge should not have considered the arson incident in Fife Street when sentencing, as it was not part of the prosecution case, nor was it the basis for the riot which Leung was found guilty of participating in.

But the court maintained that the starting point of six years in jail was “not manifestly excessive,” citing police officers – without anti-riot gear – being attacked by a crowd from behind at Argyle Street, as well as the “severity of the violence used.”

Thank you to supporters

In a post on Leung’s Facebook page, his family thanked those who had donated to the crowdfunding campaign, as well as the legal team that represented Leung in the appeal.

“The care and love you have shown has made him feel the warmth,” the post read.

Last October, netizens launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise HK$350,000 to help Leung hire a senior counsel to represent him in filing an appeal against his jail term.

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Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.